Biblical Principles for Christian Maturity

John H. Stoll, Th.M., Ph.D

Copyright 1996, John H. Stoll

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Chapter 21 - Testing in the Life of the Christian
James 1:2-27

In John 16:33, Jesus Christ stated, "In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world". Problems are a part of everyday life for all. Christ did not tell Christians He would detour them around the problems, but He did say, "I will never leave you nor forsake you, so that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, why should I fear" (Heb. 13:5,6).

James 1:2 exhorts the Christian to, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds". The word "trials"(NIV) or "temptation"(KJV) should be rendered as "testing". The purpose of the book of James is to show how testing demonstrates the faith of the Christian, in the life that he lives. As we consider this chapter on testing, there are three elements that provide understanding of this difficult aspect of life.

I. There is a service render by God, to the believer, in testing (James 1:2-12). This service has a fourfold teaching element:

1) It is for the maturing of the believer (vss.2-4). When surrounded by trials and tribulations, count it all joy. From a human perspective this seems contrary to normal reaction, but God notes that it is not the trial per se that is the issue, but it is the faith of the believer that is being tested, in order to be strengthened and matured (v.3).

The testing of one's faith is like metal being fired in the crucible; when heated up and the metal becomes molten, then the dirt rises to the top and is ladled off. So, God allows the trials in our lives for separation and refinement. This in turn leads to the maturing of the Christian (v.4), which is the purpose God has in mind. Since He is a God of economy, He never does anything capriciously or willy nilly, but with a specific purpose in mind for each of His children. He never allows any trial in our lives, but what it is for our good and His glory.

2) It promotes the believer's prayer life (vss.5-8). Testing is what the believer lacks, which is wisdom, not knowledge (v.5). Knowledge without wisdom is dangerous; it puffs one up(I Cor.8:1) whereas wisdom helps one discern good from evil (I Cor.2:13,14; Heb. 4:16). God is the source of all true wisdom (v.5) See: Job 28:28.

However, one must ask in Faith, without doubting, hesitation, or selfishness (v.6,7). In verse 8 one is admonished not to be double minded, that is, facing in two directions at the same time (i.e. wanting to do it God's way, at the same time doing it in a selfish way).

3) It puts praise on the lips of the believer (vss.9-11). The lowly person is able to praise, in that he is able to ask of God, just as every other believer (v.9). The rich and mighty, are also able to praise the Lord, in that God loves them through the testing, and to reveal that their security is in the Him, not in their wealth or power.

4) It promises reward to the believer (v.12). The promise is the crown of life, as well as blessing, for when one persists in his faith, even through the trials and tribulations of life, God is the rewarder of them who love Him. A crown is evidence of victory over the testing, and this is an eternal reward.

II. The source of testing is outlined in James 1:13-18. Negatively, God is not the source of testing (v.13). The natural reaction of a person is to cry out against God, when things go bad. Conversely, when things go well there is a tendency to take pride in the accomplishment. In adversity one tends to question God as to why He has done it.

In this section it is important to note that the word rendered temptation/trial has a two fold meaning. As used of Satan or of the Self, it means to allure to sin. As used of God in the life of the individual, it means to test for maturity. The same word is used in two different contexts. The source or context determines the meaning.

In v.13 we note that God's very nature is Holy and good, and He cannot do evil against anyone, nor does He allure anyone to do evil. Verse 14 points out that the allurement to evil comes from either Satan or one's own lustful desires. It is interesting to note that the word "allure"(KJV)/"dragged away"(NIV) in the Greek is the same word that a fisherman uses when he purchases lures to ensnare the fish. Sin is often camouflaged by that which is attractive to the senses, but has a terrible bite. I John 2:15-17, points out the allurement of the world.

From God's perspective, He allows the trials, not to allure us to sin, but to refine and strengthen us. It is our response to the situation that is the key. Do we allow the allurement of the world/flesh/Devil to entice us, like the fish is allured to the hook, or do we trust God to help us through the situation, and thereby become stronger in our faith? God's recommendation in verse 16 is, "Do not be deceived, my dear brothers". The picture here is of two different responses to the temptation: One conquers because of the new nature, the other suffers because of succumbing to the will of the old nature.

The final admonition as to the source of testing is to not fall into sin because of: 1) Our Justification - "He chose to give us birth"(v.18); we are His by divine right (I Cor.6:19,20). 2) Our Sanctification - "Don't be deceived" (v.16); we are to "Grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18). 3) Our Glorification - "First fruits" (v.18); In Romans 8:29,30 our future glorification is already an accomplished fact in the plan of God. Therefore, because of all these promises we have from Him, we should press on, realizing that all is from God, who loved us, sent Christ to redeem us, and has given us of the Holy Spirit to mature us. Someday, he will perfect that which He has begun in us.

III. The Salvation which enables one to overcome temptation (Vss. 19-27). First, we are to know the facts of deliverance from temptation (v.19-21). In verse 19, because of our regeneration we are to be: "Swift to hear God's Word when tempted"; "Slow to speak in judgment"; and "Slow to anger". Unfortunately, many times we do just the opposite, according to the self life: when situations arise, we don't listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to us, we are quick to judge, and quick to anger.

In verse 21 we are admonished because of our sanctification to: "Put away on the outside all moral filth, and on the inside any overflow of wickedness". The vacuum should be filled with the Word of God. Then we are to apply the facts of deliverance from temptation (Vss. 22-25). We are not to be hearers only of the Word, but doers. If we hear and do not do, then we are like a person looking into a mirror, and doing nothing to correct what he sees.

The doer of the Word examines it, then applies it to life's situations, and continues to follow God's Word. In so doing, God blesses that person (See: I Samuel 2:30). Then one can examine the results by comparison to see how one measures up. Two evaluations as to the worth of a Christian's behaviors are given in verses 26,27; 1) Worthless religion is seen in not being able to control one's tongue (i.e. saying one thing and doing another, or being judgmental of others). 2) Valuable Christianity is measured by two criteria: to help others in need, and to keep one's self from worldly contamination.

Therefore, testing in the life of the Christian, is a service from God, to promote one's spiritual maturation, to strengthen one's prayer life, and the result is God's reward when the Christian follows His Word. The final admonition is to, "Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only".

Be still, my soul, the Lord is on thy side,
Bear patiently the cross of grief and pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide,
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul, thy best, thy Heavenly friend,
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul, thy God doth undertake,
To guide the future as He has the past;
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake,
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul, the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul, the hour is hastening on,
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul, when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

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